Meet black entrepreneur Kenny Annan-Jonathan; he is the founder of a sports marketing agency, The Mailroom. He also doubles as the first-ever creative director for the English Premier League football club, Crystal Palace.
Annan-Jonathan first started as a graphic designer and then branched into fashion. He then launched a clothing line in the mid-2000s which became one of the most prominent streetwear brands in London.
His clothing line began attracting a large following, including celebrities and athletes like Crystal Palace’s Wilfred Zaha. His relationship with Zaha went beyond styling the footballer to assisting him in building his own brand. Together, they co-founded a brand called Long Live.
“We built a good friendship and after some time of purchasing our clothes, he wanted to create his own brand and they asked me if I could help him to build his own brand, which led me to create a new brand that we would become co-owners in, called Long Live [Studio],” Annan-Jonathan told Forbes Africa.
Annan-Johnathan then noticed a gap in Zaha’s brand. There were not enough people helping Zaha within the business space. Annan-Johnathan, then, took it upon himself to become his adviser during meetings, thereby earning Zaha’s trust. His partnership with Zaha eventually became his breakthrough. He got so many offers he could not meet, leading him to start The Mailroom to meet growing demands.
“I knew I was into the creative arts but I didn’t know what space I wanted to go into. I started with graphic design which led into fashion. I don’t have any form of higher education because I left school at sixth form from Southfields Community College, and after that I have been figuring out the world of business from the age of 18,” said Annan-Jonathan.
His work caught the attention of the owner of Crystal Palace, who offered him the opportunity to become the creative director of the club, becoming the first person to hold the position.
“Before I became the creative director for Crystal Palace, I had emails that were sent to the owner of Crystal Palace saying, I believe there was a space for a creative director here and this is before anyone started thinking about it.
“Especially when it comes to fashion, it’s about having your finger on the pulse and when it comes to a conversation about who the athletes are, naturally fashion comes into that because that is a way of them expressing who they are. So, I just said if these two things are colliding, in the future, you can naturally see a road map to see that fashion is going to be incorporated into sports a lot more,” the sports marketing veteran, who has Ghanaian roots, noted.